Welcome back to the No Laying Up bi-weekly mailbag! In this space, we’ll address topics big and small, smart and dumb, irreverent and serious. You need to be a member of The Nest to submit a question to the mailbag, but the mailbag itself will be free to read (as long as you behave yourselves). Most of our questions are submitted via our message board, The Refuge, but if you’re not a message board person, please send me an email at kvv@nolayingup.com with your Nest handle and your question. As a bonus, if your question gets picked, we’ll send you a free NLU towel.

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Dflock24: Realistically what would you like to see in regards to a ball/equipment rollback? Obviously most of the talk is around a more spinny ball to exaggerate mishits; do you think this or other suggestions would be enough to truly make a difference in the professional game? Could changes such as a spinner ball or reduced legal driver head actually have a lasting impact, or would the players eventually figure it out and get back to overpowering courses in 5-10 years?

Realistically, what I would like to see is professional golfers step back and realize that their interests do not always align with the greater good of the game. Professional golfers are really good at picking apart the challenge a golf course presents. Some of them see it as art, and some of them see it as a math equation they are trying to solve, but the goal is the same: Shoot the lowest score. The goal of the governing bodies is different. They have a responsibility to strike a balance between professional golfers, amateur golfers, golf course owners and architects, the environment, superintendents and history. Professional golfers have the biggest megaphone, but they also have selfish motivations. They don’t want their jobs to get harder and they don’t want the equipment companies who pay them to have to rethink a marketing strategy that has benefitted them. I wish they could realize they could step outside themselves and understand there is a value in preserving the historical connection we have to the game. Do I need to see them hitting a 1-iron into the 13th hole at Augusta National like Jack Nicklaus did? No, I’m not that extreme, but it would be nice to see more 4 irons instead of 8 irons. They could have participated in sensible reform, and worked with the USGA and R&A, but they’ve resisted ANY reform. I think if Mike Whan had announced that a new tournament ball was going to spin more or punish mishits severely, they would have howled in protest to that as well. So I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know the framing of the issue is frequently dishonest. Professional golfers are still going to be really good at golf no matter what ball they play. And if the ball doesn’t fly (quite) as far, maybe we don’t have to make greens STIMP at 13 or 14 in every major, which would benefit the game in a lot of ways, not just at the professional level but in a way that cascades down.

TK2575: Aside from the larger audience, what has your experience been using Twitter threads as a means of reporting? Does the 280 character bullet point have any significant impact on your approach? If so, is there any reason why this approach couldn't be incorporated into your NLU website posts?

One thing I’m enjoying about this mailbag is it feels like people like a peek into how the sausage of journalism is made. If you haven’t followed along, I’ve written multiple “columns” on Twitter from the Genesis and The Players instead of incorporating them into the NLU website, a decision that has baffled some of my friends but delighted some readers. The reasons behind it, I think, is fairly simple: The shelf life for a Thursday or Friday column from a golf tournament is very short. By the time I get it written, edited, built and posted, it might live on our website for what … five or six hours before play begins again?

There is an immediacy to writing in Twitter threads and also a discipline to it. I kind of enjoy trying to write well in small boxes. In truth, I think digital media companies have sometimes made a mistake in trying to monetize the written word. How likely are you to click on a digital banner ad on NoLayingUp.com when you’re interested in one of my stories? I think you’re more likely to be annoyed than you are willing to buy a product from one of those ads.

I want people to read those Twitter threads and feel something about the NLU universe. If you like my insights, hopefully, you’ll stick around and read the Sunday wrap-up or you’ll listen to the podcast or join the Nest. My friend Kyle Porter and I had a conversation about this recently. Writing is a great way to bring people under your umbrella. It’s not a great way to make money. Do Twitter threads feel like a waste if they just disappear? Maybe. And I think there will be moments when we could make them into actual columns. In the case of Keith Mitchell, I knew when I saw that I wanted it to be more than a series of tweets. So I wrote a column. I think my honest answer is, we’re figuring this stuff out as we go along. I like the freedom to do whatever the moment calls for.

Dmmcgaha: KVV, I really need your help. As I’m perusing the lineups for some music festivals this summer, I see that the foo fighters are headlining a lot of festivals. My question is: Who’s favorite band is the Foo Fighters? Aren’t they just Creed with a lead singer who was in Nirvana instead of the CIA? Foo Fighters is a heavier version of Maroon 5: Tons of accolades, but no one admits they like them. Can you help?

This topic came up recently in a group chat I’m in and I’m kind of surprised at how polarizing the Foo Fighters are among my friends. Often when these kinds of questions come up, I’m reminded of the anecdote about New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael, who was alleged to have quipped when Richard Nixon was elected president that she didn’t know how that was possible because she didn’t know anyone who had voted for him. (The anecdote is almost certainly apocryphal, but has bandied about for 50 some years as a way of poking fun at someone who seems out of touch and living in a bubble. In truth, Kael was almost certainly admitting her own provincialism.)

Do I know anyone who is a passionate fan of the Foo Fighters? Admittedly I do not. But that might be an indictment of me, not the Foo Fighters. I think the comparison to Creed and Maroon 5 is unfair because Creed stinks (sorry to my colleagues Neil and Randy) and Maroon 5 is not a rock band, they’re a pop band.

Here is what I will say about the Foo Fighters: They have two videos I can watch and I immediately get choked up. The time they played “My Hero” at the MTV Music Awards with Taylor Hawkins’ son on the kit, and the time they closed down Dave Letterman’s run as a late night host with a performance of “Everlong,” the song Letterman listened to repeatedly in the hospital when he needed a quintuple bypass.

I like snarking about art and music as much as anyone, but I don’t see how you can watch the Shane Hawkins video and not be moved by the power of music. There is a moment at the 3:45 mark where Dave Grohl looks back at Shane with a mixture of pride and wonderment that just guts me. Imagine losing your dad and then getting up on stage, sitting in the exact seat where he sat, and just mashing the drums with everything you’ve got in front of thousands of people. Grieving takes on different forms, and that one moves me every time.

The second video is more about my own shit, but it’s loosely connected to the theme of dads. When I was a kid, watching David Letterman on Friday nights was one of best bonding experiences I had with my dad, and it spanned such an important period of my life (from when I was a teenager to when I was a father myself) that when Letterman brought out the Foo Fighters to say goodbye and they started ripping through Everlong, it felt like a slideshow of the last 25 years for me. Nothing has ever made me bawl out of nowhere like that did, sitting alone in the dark, thinking about being a teenager and my dad setting up the television on our back deck during the summer so we could watch Letterman under the stars.

I couldn’t tell you what a single Foo Fighters song means if I’m being honest. But emotionally, they’re a pretty good soundtrack to some big themes in my life.

RunOfTheDill: Simple question. Rank The Wire top 5 non-police characters and why Bodie is your favorite.

In the last mailbag, I declared (perhaps foolishly) that I don’t love ranking stuff because comparison is a thief of joy. So instead of ranking them, I’m going to just list five characters and why I love them and people can rank them as they see fit. I’m also not going to pick Omar simply because that’s too easy, everyone loves Omar and he’d make every list so I’m going to create a special exemption for him, like the PGA Tour did to make sure Tiger Woods could get in any designated event he wants.

Bubbles: One of the best things about Bubs is the way he functions as the Greek Chorus throughout the series. He works with the cops but he’s not of the cops, and he is part of the street but not part of either the Barksdale crew or the Stanfield crew. It is his job to serve as the moral arbiter between the two worlds, and Andre Royo’s acting might be the best on the whole show. I often think about the quote “It’s a thin line between heaven and here” because it takes a cliche and tweaks it just enough to make you stop and realize what it means to be Bubbles. Lastly, is there a better scene in the entire show than Bubbles climbing the stairs to eat dinner with his sister’s family during the final montage? The scene has equals, but nothing in the show felt as earned as that one.

Frank Sobotka: Anytime anyone says to me that they don’t like Season 2 of The Wire, I immediately write them off as someone who doesn’t actually get the message the show is trying to convey. Season 2 is what makes you understand this isn’t a conflict between cops and drug dealers, it’s the story of an American city ripped apart because institutions are more powerful than individuals. Frank’s choices are the same as D’Angelo’s choices, but David Simon and Ed Burns were some of the first people to help people understand how similarly fated each character was. “We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just stick our hands in someone else’s pockets” is as good a line of dialog as there is in the series, and I love Chris Bauer’s long walk toward The Greek and Spiros when they know he’s met with the FBI but he doesn’t know they know. Such a sad, powerful moment.

Prop Joe: When you re-watch the series, I don’t think anyone makes me smile more than Robert Chew. His delivery of dry one-liners is so perfect. Prop Joe survives with cunning wit more than muscle, and the only person who is truly his equal in that department is Omar. My favorite tidbit about Chew is he was a real life theater coach and a teacher in Baltimore city schools and he helped coach all the kids in Season 4 feel comfortable and confident in their performances, as well as Felicia “Snoop” Pearson, who had never acted before. There are a dozen Prop Joe lines that I love, but I chuckle every time I think about him saying he’s “Irving Pepper from the law firm Pepper, Pepper and Bay Leaf.”

Wee-Bey: One of my favorite moments in the series involves Wee-Bey, when Bunny Colvin visits him in prison to ask if he can adopt Namond. Wee-Bey hasn’t really been featured as a character much since Season 1, but when the moment calls for it, he delivers such an unexpected powerful transformation as he realizes his son doesn’t have to meet the same fate he did. Hassan Johnson barely has any lines in the scene with Robert Wisdom, but his face is so good at conveying the angst and torment. It’s weird to say that one of your favorite characters is probably the show’s most ruthless killer, but the way he’s humanized late in the series as someone who could swallow his pride when his kid is offered a chance at a better life is quite moving.

Stringer Bell: I know you kicked this off by assuming that Bodie should be the top draft pick, but after mulling it, I had to leave him off. I love his character, but I love others just a little bit more. My friend Bomani Jones has been banging the drum for years that Stringer is actually the worst, and he’s not wrong, but all the reasons he lists are actually the reasons I Iove his character. He thought he was smarter than everyone. He thought he could run a drug empire like a legitimate business. He betrayed his friends, he got them killed, he ended up looking like a fool several times. He was a terrible boss! But those are the reasons he’s fascinating. His scene on the balcony where he and Avon know they’ve each betrayed one another, but are still feeling nostalgic about the young punks they used to be, is one of my favorite scenes in the whole series. People overuse the term Shakespearean, but that’s about as close as you can get to Shakespeare in modern television.

Greebs: Is there a golfer whose story you love that would make him winning a non-elevated event so good you’d be rooting for him?

The easy answer to this is Harry Higgs, a win that would maybe go down as the most delightful day in the history of Golf Twitter. Obviously, we are light years apart when it comes to golf talent, but I see a lot of myself in Higgs, both in our frame and in how we tend to get down on ourselves on the golf course. This conversation he had with Joel Beall is a good window into why he’s such a vulnerable, interesting person.

Ztlumak:  As a journalist, how do you go about planning questions for a subject ahead of an interview or prior to a press conference (a la The Players where you may only get one shot) and how has that skill evolved over the course of your career?

Press conferences are such a strange dance between reporter and subject. If you ask a great question, you’re essentially giving the answer to everyone else in the room to use for their own stuff. So your reward is uplifting everyone’s story, not just your own. I usually try to get a specific detail out of someone that I know is going to be interesting to my story. Sometimes it turns out to be a whiff. It seemed like, from social media reports, Scottie Scheffler had spent considerable time on the range Saturday night after shooting 65, and I wondered if it might have reflected some larger anxiety about his swing so I asked him why he was beating balls until the sunset. “I hit like 10 balls,” Scheffler said, and I think he assumed I was trying to make a sophomoric joke. You can witness the exchange here. I really needed a Jim Halpert in that moment behind me to whisper: ‘Phrasing, Kevin.’ ”

I think there are also moments when it’s important for the press to ask questions that speak to broader issues, particularly if readers or viewers have made it clear they want the answer and they feel like no one has asked the question. I actually would have liked to have asked Jay Monahan about this Phil Mickelson tweet but I didn’t see it before Monahan’s press conference last Tuesday. (Phil! @ me next time.)

mschriver3: I can’t remember where I put it - but please expound on your “no-drop tournament” concept. Where is it hosted - realistically and for most carnage (e.g. St Andrews versus Bay Hill). Does OB not exist? Is a water ball or any unplayable lie an auto-DQ?

In case you’re not a regular podcast listener, I have joked recently that I’d love to see the PGA Tour hold a tournament where there was no TIO relief. If you hit the ball behind a Port-A-John, you have to play it around, over, or off the toilet. (Sometimes I like to imagine the look on a Hollywood director’s face if a golf consultant tried to bring up TIO relief during the filming of Happy Gilmore.) There are obvious safety issues and insurance issues that would come into play, but shouldn’t you be able to avoid hitting the ball into a parking lot as a professional golfer? Why should you get a free drop in that scenario? You hit it into a parking lot! There ought to be a reward for keeping the ball in the field of play. Consider the potential recovery shots as well. What would be more thrilling than watching Jordan Spieth make pars from a salad bar in a hospitality tent?

I think we could embrace that glorious madness for one tournament. Obviously, if you hit the ball in the water, that’s a natural hazard and you take your penalty stroke and plan on. But hit it behind the scoreboard? Tough break, figure it out.

Kevin Van Valkenburg is the Editorial Director of No Laying Up. Email him at kvv@nolayingup.com.

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